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1. Find out if there's wiggle room in the venue's per-head price.
If you're throwing a smaller bash, the reception site's per-person food-and-beverage minimum may be negotiable. The rate usually includes staffing fees, rentals, and booze, all of which costs less for each invitee as your guest list shrinks. "If you're hosting a crowd of fewer than 100 at a big venue, it's possible to get, say, a $120-per-person rate reduced to $80 or to have your venue discount its site-rental fee," says Holly Patton, of Perfectly Posh Events in Seattle. And when a venue manager has to choose between reducing her profit margin or losing your business, adds New York City planner Xochitl Gonzales, of Always a Bridesmaid, most will give you the deal.
2. Score free food.
If your caterer won't budge on her price, ask if she could throw in a food or drink station at the beginning or end of the night, says Alia Wilson, of Firefly Events in Los Angeles. Since staffing is a station's biggest cost and servers have extra time before and after dinner, a premeal martini bar or postcake sundae station is an easy give.
3. Be flexible on your date.
Are you willing to get hitched on an unpopular weekend, like the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving? Or during the week? How about a wedding in winter, off-season for most venues? Your event space and vendors are more likely to say yes to a discount if you choose a hard-to-sell date, says Amy Leyden, of Minneapolis's McNamara Alumni Center.
4. Pick a cheaper palette.
You read that right! Some flower colors are less expensive than others. Blue and purple are popular for weddings, but blooms in those shades can be hard to find. Using more readily available colors like pink, yellow, and white means less work for your florist and a bargaining opportunity for you: "She could knock up to 20 percent off your bill," says Shannon Cosgrove-Rivas, of Flourish in Sacramento.
5. Haggle over the music.
You may be able to convince your band to shave a couple hundred off its fee, but an even better strategy is to stick to the asking price and see what extras you can get — like having a ceremony musician stay on for cocktail hour, says Jim Eppolito, of West Coast Music.
6. Get the hotel to throw in freebies.
"If you've booked 10 or more rooms for your guests, your bridal suite should be gratis," says Gina Vittorio, of One Fine Day Events in Chicago. Two more things hotels often agree to comp: distribution of gift bags and a shuttle bus for guests to and from the wedding.
7. Maximize your time.
Want a few extra hours to prep your reception? Many venues will charge overtime to set up early. If that's a no-go for you, call three to four weeks before the big day and ask again. "At that point, if they haven't booked the space for that morning, they'll probably let you come in early at no additional cost," says San Francisco based planner Sasha Souza.
8. Sell your vision.
"Don't talk money until you've shown your photographer your Pinterest boards," says Houston planner Jennifer Harrup. "If she loves your vibe, she may want to use your photos in her online portfolio and will work harder to meet your budget." Bonus: Once your photographer is on board, your other vendors may also be willing to give you a deal in exchange for use of your gorgeous photos.